Modern medicine is poised to undergo a paradigm shift, ushering in an age of personalized medicine. Health experts have long been calling for a change in the way we view common problems like chronic pain or opioid addiction. Rather than viewing these conditions as single entities, medical researchers are exploring ways that different people may experience these problems differently. This leads to a profound change in the way we treat this conditions. Rather than a “one size fits all” approach, personalized medicine calls for a unique, customized treatment approach for every patient.
A Personalized Medicine Understanding of Pain
More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and many are not achieving the pain relief they deserve. The latest science in this area suggests that pain is a complex and multi-factorial process. Each person varies in their perception of pain, including the duration, location, severity, or frequency of pain. What one person registers as moderately unpleasant may feel extremely painful to another.
Additionally, demographic factors such as race, gender, and age affect how people experience pain. The perception of pain may also be influenced by trauma history, mental health problems like depression or anxiety, poor sleep, chronic stress, or dietary choices. Finally, some people are simply biologically predisposed to experience pain more severely.
Genetic factors and having more sensitive pain receptors may influence your experience of chronic pain. For example, scientists have uncovered certain genes that increase risk of chronic pain as well as genes that may be protective. Untangling the effects of these genes would allow doctors to understand who is at risk of chronic pain and how it may best be treated.
Addressing Opioid Addiction with Personalized Medicine
Currently opioid addiction goes hand in hand with chronic pain. Opioids are the most widely prescribed class of drugs in the United States, with millions of people using them to manage pain. Unfortunately, opioid addiction often results from prolonged use of opiate painkillers.
Scientists continue to uncover factors that increase risk of opioid addiction. For example, genetic factors, levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, pain receptor sensitivity, and enzyme levels may all determine who is likely to develop an opioid abuse problem.
We are reaching the point where doctors may be able to perform advanced diagnostic testing to identify people who are at risk for opioid addiction, before opiate painkillers are ever prescribed. Furthermore, as we learn more about gene-drug interactions, we may be able to determine what treatments will work better for which type of person. This may increase patient compliance with taking medications, reduce harmful side effects, and slash the risk of opioid addiction.
How the Waismann Method Center Practices Personalized Medicine Today
We are still a few years away from the point in which each patient will undergo complete genetic, hormonal, and other biological testing to explore their reactions to pain or susceptibility to opioid addiction. The science simply isn’t there yet. However, this does not mean that we cannot begin to practice personalized medicine using the scientific techniques we have available now.
At the Waismann Method Medical Group, we believe that opioid addiction cannot be effectively treated by a “one size fits all” approach. Instead, we conceptualize each patient as a unique individual who is a product of a specific biological background, personal history, and psychological state. This is why we take the assessment process so seriously. All of our patients undergo a comprehensive assessment that allows us to craft a customized treatment plan that is personalized to their unique needs. No two patients are alike, so no two treatments should be identical either.